A Scrap of Bone and Breath in Rags
March 14, 2020
I am fond of saying, I have said many times, one of my favourite things about Jesus; that he was said justly to be 'no respecter of persons'.
Again I think I need to explain this description of Jesus. He was not one who kowtows to people of high rank or flatters, is obsequious to, those who hold high office; He did not look down on lowly persons whose work might be emptying litter bins or who sweep the streets. The famous and powerful, the aristocrats and the wealthy got the same treatment and consideration as did the beggar or the sickly, the mad and the tradesman. To Jesus these all were human beings who have the same needs and appetites fears and hopes about the courses of their lives as any one of us has today in our times.
To quote from the drama King Lear, in the eyes of Jesus each of us is '__Unaccommodated man” “no more but” “a poor_, bare,_ forked animal_'._
Like death is called correctly 'The Great Leveller' in that all of us equally face and will suffer it; so too is the Grace of Christ “The Great Leveller” because it is the free gift open to all men and women equally.
Only those differences between us which denominate us a race of beings who do, and would, and feel that they must all be “respecters of persons” and so make distinctions where Christ never did nor does; only these differences we love to salute and admire separate us from The Kingdom that Christ ushered in at his Incarnation.
For us to get beyond this our insistent and gratuitous being 'respecters of persons' by which we manage, rule, relegate, promote, demean, ingratiate, one other - and all according to custom so as to stroke our self-identities and thereby soothe their demands for succour and attention; for us to get beyond these things is indeed the very meaning of Christ, and for attempting to live The Christian Life.
Just as Christ tells us that 'in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven__” - so we are in essence to look upon one another; each of us seeing as and being seen as a living soul, one like whom Thomas Jefferson meant when he iterated that under God 'all men are created equal..''.
Thus to be in the sight of the Lord Jesus is to be seen with an unbiased eye; to be beheld for what we really are as human persons; what we really are when the regalia and the trumperies, the airs and the pretensions, are discarded; and what we are left with then is weighed Anubis-like and our hearts in the balance are sifted for their truth and goodness.
This if anything is of what Divine Justice consists. And only Divine Mercy is able to save any of us from the balance reporting that we are inadequate; because none of us is able to obtain The Kingdom under our own means.
This levelling made by way of Christ's looking upon each of us and being 'no respecter of persons', is also a source wherefrom arises, if it is to arise in us at all, our sense of humility. Before, and in the face of, these Leveller items – Christ, Death, Having Been Created Equal – we find ourselves, midstream during the course of our lives , being confronted by ourselves, as we look to our endings, or as we dwell on and contemplate the Mighty Beauty of Christ's immaculate lovingkindness.
It is reported in the Gospels how Jesus said 'I am he' in answer to the men with staves and weapons who sought him and came out to Gethsemane to take him; how these words said by Jesus caused his seizers to stagger backwards and fall to the floor by their power.
This great lovingkindness and immaculate beautiful presence in and of Christ, and against which we are compelled to measure ourselves, to confront ourselves, bears that same power as this 'I am he' to cause us to stagger backwards and fall to the floor in confusion.
We are not only confronted we are conflicted and convicted by our sense of unworthiness even to have had the gall to have thought to try such a comparison. We are of a sudden levelled, brought to a true and just assessment and understanding of ourselves, of our meanness and of our weak flimsy braveries of class, and office, and position, and standing; - all that aery nothing we count so highly and think so much of.
Those words 'I am he' floor us, and we have nothing left, nothing to offer in opposition, unless it is to cast our faults back on ourselves, our own levities of presumptions; thus mortifying ourselves, and for the first time perhaps doing a proper honour of worship to Christ and to his Name. Humility thus becomes our only tenable place to be at.
A place whereabouts we are ready to surrender, if not already having surrendered, ourselves and our senses of ego-pride and our serious worldly worths, as being tawdry items for a sacrificial offering at his feet whose shoe latchets even St John Baptist, than whom “a__mong them that are born of women a greater prophet is no__ne” felt unworthy to tie
This overwhelming assault of sheer power present in the beauty of truth and lovingkindness which is Christ, I think is what can only account for those Byzantine images layered over huge domes above gorgeous alters and to be found in Orthodox Churches; and which are generally terms images of 'Christ in Majesty”.
In these images Christ is depicted sternly as an authoritative, almost despotic figure; frowning, serious and grave, eyes seeking out your soul and always appearing to be on you – like a harrowing paranoia rather than like a loving gentleness. These Christs in Majesty then are perhaps to be taken as being almost a surrealist representation of the psychological effect of Jesus the Christ in his full beauty of meekness and sacrifice and lovingkindness, mercy and accommodation upon us; these things and their absolute power being able to humble, to humiliate, to mortify and rightly to lay us low in an abject sorrow of submission to one so far beyond out plane of soiled sordid being?
And of course when we bandy about casually phrases like 'the power of love'; and 'love is stronger than death' and 'goodness triumphs over evil' we might not fully be accessing in our hearts and minds that picture of the glory of Christ that I have been trying in this article to put close to meanings in words; but instead, rather like the usage of dead metaphors by politicians and officials, we are not really disguising our own calloused insensitivity.
In the great enormity of the inward impression of the Christ upon our minds; his full and glorious majesty in grand power when it hits us, at our best perhaps, and certainly in our most memorable, moments; we get insight and understanding of the wily ways of the world and its distractions to blunt, hide, disguise and prevent our truly approaching the throne of God in Christ, and so seeing Him more clearly in that true 'no respecter of persons' light which bathes him so marvellously
In the end all words are useless. Inadequate – as are we – to the task of doing Christ justice. We can attempt, paint, conjure, evoke, devise, render; but all the wizard words we can muster go far less than halfway.
The clay of the earth clings about us whatever; and fills our eyes with obstacles to vision – while we live and remain with half a stake in this delusive world. And this fact is a very great proof of the validity of Jesus – the Man who lived among us and was immersed and mired in the same soilings, and felt the same 'resistances of empirical things' as are we and we feel; yet it remains, hardly credible to our carnal minds, that he rose above a these things and maintained a Way, a life, always above these things, and fulfilled a course he chose and was made Incarnate to fulfil; nonetheless, notwithstanding and absolutely.